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May 1, 2017

New York Penal Law 470.20: Money laundering in the first degree

In general, money laundering can be defined as the deliberate use of what would otherwise be legal financial transactions that are employed to conceal the origin, amount, and ownership of money that was obtained through any activity that could be taken as a criminal activity under New York’s Penal Code.

As defined in NY State Penal Law 470.20, first degree money laundering occurs when:

  • The defendant knew, or should have known, that the money in question was derived from a criminal enterprise.
  • The purpose of the alleged money laundering transaction was to deliberately conceal the actual source or ownership of the money in question.
  • The amount of money in question is greater than $1 million

New York’s Penal Code also allows a money laundering charge to be “enhanced” (prosecuted as a higher-degree crime) if it can be shown that the source of the laundered funds was from drug trafficking or if the laundered funds were to be used for the purpose of terrorism.

Although the definition of money laundering in the context of this article refers to prosecutions under the laws of New York State, there are also federal laws that criminalize money laundering under a much broader set of circumstances than does New York. Since a federal prosecution can also be used to link money laundering to crimes such as tax evasion or operating a criminal enterprise that falls under the provisions of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act, a conviction on a money laundering in the first-degree charge could lead to a very long prison term.

State of New York criminal penalties for first degree money laundering

In the State of New York, a conviction on a charge of money laundering in the first degree is a Class B felony and can lead to a prison sentence of up to 25 years in prison and a fine that is equal to twice the amount of money involved in the transaction(s) that led to the conviction. Since, by definition, a first-degree money laundering charge must exceed at least $1 million, the fine that could be imposed could exceed $2 million.

Defenses against a charge of money laundering in the first degree

As in any criminal charge, it is the responsibility of the state’s prosecutor to prove that any defendant is guilty of a crime rather than having the defendant prove that they are not guilty. In a charge of money laundering in the first degree, defenses that may be raised by a New York City criminal defense lawyer include:

  • The defendant had no knowledge, or a reason to suspect, that money in question was derived from a criminal enterprise or that such money had been used to purchase property or other assets sold by the defendant.
  • The defendant did not deliberately structure a financial transaction of any amount in a way that was designed to conceal the identity of one or more parties to that transaction.
  • The actual cash value of the transaction did not exceed the threshold necessary to merit a charge of money laundering in the first degree.

Due to the potentially-severe penalties that can be imposed upon a conviction on a charge of money laundering in the first degree, it is essential that anyone charged with this offense obtain the representation of an experienced New York City criminal lawyer as soon as they become aware that they are facing such a charge.

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Phone

888-977-6335

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